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Culture

Berlin's "MOMArathon" Draws to End

The New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) exhibit in Berlin, which has drawn more than a million visitors since it opened in February, draws to a close on Sunday with a spectacular firework display.

The MOMA exhibition in Berlin is already being talked of in superlatives: the biggest, most successful European art show ever that boasted the longest waiting lines.

The show at Berlin's National Gallery that has been the sensation of the city's art scene in the past seven months, draws to an end on Sunday night with a spectacular pink firework display and a party.

Das MoMa in Berlin Pablo Picasso Knabe ein Pferd

Visitors admire a Picasso at Berlin's MOMA

The around 200 art works which include famous canvases such as Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night", Claude Monet's "The Water Lilies" and "The Dance" by Henri Matisse will then be transported back to New York, where they will be on display once again starting mid-November following the renovation of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Show a phenomenal success

Organizers of the Berlin show are already talking of a phenomenal success, with almost 1.2 million visitors, 70 percent of them tourists to Berlin, flocking to glimpse paintings by Picasso, Modigliani and other 20th century heavyweights, far exceeding original estimates of around 700,000 visitors.

Ausstellung Das MoMa in Berlin Titel Nummer 20

A visitor looks at a piece by artist Bradley Walker Tomlin titled Number 20 which is part of the MoMA in Berlin

Peter Raue, initiator of the prestigious exhibition, said the financial costs too had shot beyond earlier expectations of around €8.5 million to €10 million. Raue said the flood of visitors had forced them to install a much larger air conditioning system in the gallery as well as hire extra security personnel. "We never reckoned with such a massive flood of visitors," Reue said.

But the painstaking advertising campaign with the pink-colored posters and slogans such as "The MOMA is the Star" seems to have paid off. Raue said he was "ecstatic" about the result and was "overwhelmed" by the success.

Long waiting lines the real star

Moma Ausstellung in Berlin geht zu Ende

Visitors throng to the ticket counter at the MOMA

There remains little doubt that the long waiting lines, sometimes up to ten hours long, generated as much interest as the works of art themselves. To accommodate the crowds, the show remained open round the clock for its last four days.

Television and other media descended on the long queues outside the National Gallery to document the readiness of Germans to wait for hours to get a chance to view the art works -- an unusual scene in a nation famously averse to waiting in an orderly line. Social commentators are even musing that the MOMA line -- which often exceeded a kilometer -- had made queuing cool.

Warten auf MoMA

Wolfgang Hindl, 30, und Ruta Dressler, 19, from Munich lie in their sleeping bags in front of Berlin's National Gallery for a chance to get in early at the MOMA the following day

Television cameras showed culture-hungry students armed with sleeping bags prepared to spend the night in front of the stark glass and steel National Gallery to be the first to get in in the morning. Others seized the opportunity to make some money, with some people offering to stand in line for others, and charging about €10 an hour. "We've bought coffee and food. Everybody's come prepared -- it's a nice atmosphere," art lover Hannelore Hannuth, 75, told Reuters.

Jugglers, artists and musicians entertained the crowds as they waited. One survey showed that 15 percent of the MOMA visitors had never been to a museum before. Many of them spoke later of moving moments as they lost themselves in the art works.

"Lots of people visit because they feel they have to have been at MOMA. We can't deny that," exhibition project manager Andre Odier told Reuters. "Inside the gallery it is the art which counts. But outside the building, in the queue and in the city of Berlin it is the sense of occasion which is important," he said. "That's why people wait so long, recommend the exhibition to their friends or even make a return visit."

"People want to see MOMA live"

Ausstellung Das MoMa in Berlin Seerosen

Visitors in front of Claude Monet's "The Water Lilies"

The massive success of the exhibition has also silenced its critics, who had warned before its opening that such a lavish art spectacle would end up being a burden on the city's art coffers.

Some also cautioned that the MOMA show would only serve to cement strained German-US relations while renowned art historian Werner Spies said he viewed the prominent presence of American art stars of the second half of the 20th century as a "MOMA plot" and "a testimony of American infallibility."

Raue however has dismissed the criticism as "unbelievably polemical" and said the key to the MOMA's spectacular success in Berlin lay in the fact that "the people want to see MOMA live -- to experience first hand the real paintings and sculptures."

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